It’s the weekend! And it’s long one! Let’s celebrate with some homemade treats! Full disclosure — I actually posted these bars many years ago. But the images were so atrocious and I also updated the preparation method, so I thought it would be appropriate to re-post. I have no doubt many of you will be hosting or attending backyard shindigs this weekend. These are THE perfect dessert to bring to a fancy or casual affair.
What are you up to this weekend? Lots of plans? No plans? Is it finally good weather where you are? In classic Southern California beach tradition, our unseasonably warm winter has transitioned into a slightly chilly spring. Translation: it was 70 degrees two months ago and it’s 70 degrees today! Not quite bathing suit weather, but also not complaining at all, because I am not quite bathing suit-ready either if you know what I mean! The unofficial start of summer is a double-edged sword, now isn’t it? Exciting because I can start dreaming of laying on the beach with magazines and watermelon while listening to the waves crashing at my feet. But summer also means shorts and bikinis and I need to start kicking it into high gear. Salads to the rescue!
When I put this spinach salad on my meal plan for this week, it dawned on me I had never posted it on the blog. I taught the recipe several years ago in my classes and I realized I never got around to photographing it. But it was really popular with my students and with my family too, so I thought better late than never and I think it’s perfect for Memorial Day weekend. This is a very simple salad which you can make much more fancy or more substantial if you want. The basic bones of it is fresh baby spinach, stone fruit, nuts and a classic honey-mustard dressing. You can add cooked chicken or goat cheese, radishes, shaved carrots, avocado, and/or sprouts if you want. The honey-mustard dressing is the first dressing Mr. Picky ever liked, so the recipe holds a place near and dear to my heart. Truth be told, he likes it more as a dip for raw veggies than as a salad dressing, but I’m cool with that.
I think this salad would be great next to a burger, especially a turkey burger, or chicken with barbecue sauce. So if you’re entertaining this weekend or you need to bring a dish to a potluck, I think this salad would be perfect. I also love the idea of balancing out a burger with something much more healthful like spinach salad with a clean dressing. Even though kale salads have been in the spotlight the last few years, I think spinach is just as nutritious. Check out this comparison of nutrients from Prevention Magazine. Spinach is incredibly rich in iron, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin K, as well as the obvious Vitamin C and fiber. Most people find raw spinach a bit more palatable than raw kale. Kale however, has the advantage at a potluck since it holds up much better already dressed than spinach. I have two fantastic kale salad recipes on my site if you’re interested: one with a citrus dressing and one with a creamy lemon dressing. Both favorites of mine.
However you are spending your weekend, there is always room on your plate for something healthy! Enjoy!
Spinach Salad with Grilled Apricots and Honey-Mustard Dressing
1 ½ Tablespoons raw mild-flavored honey
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ Tablespoons raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
8 oz baby spinach leaves
3 fresh peaches or apricots, ripe, but firm
Olive oil or melted coconut oil for brushing peaches/apricots
¼ cup nuts such as sliced almonds or toasted pecans of walnuts (I used Trader Joe's Sweet & Spicy pecans in these photos)
To make dressing – place mustard, honey and vinegar in a mini-food processor or blender and process until combined. With the motor running, pour oil in a steady stream until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can also do this in a bowl with a whisk, just take care to fully incorporate the honey.)
Preheat a grill to medium. Cut peaches in half and remove pit. Cut into quarters if they're large. Brush with oil and grill until just charred, about 3-5 minutes. You can grill the other side if you like. I like to grill apricot halves and cut in half again after they're off the grill.
Place spinach in a serving bowl or platter and toss with just enough dressing to coat lightly. Top with grilled fruit and nuts. Drizzle with any remaining dressing, if desired.
Something I really hate to do is to waste food. One of the reasons I plan out a week of meals is that I can shop accordingly and only buy what I know I will use. But what about that leftover almond pulp? Despite my best efforts to use up the almond byproduct that results every time I make almond milk, it just doesn’t always happen. And raw almonds are so expensive that it actually pains me to throw the pulp in the trash. It’s perfectly good food, especially since the almonds were previously soaked, making them much more digestible and nutritious!
So what do I do with it? Of course, there’s the obvious — add it to anyone’s smoothie or stir it into a warm porridge or muesli. And almond pulp freezes well, so I can save it for another time. But I am just way too lazy to get out my dehydrator and dry out the pulp to use as almond meal. And then I thought to myself, what if I just tried the almond pulp in a quick bread in place of some of the wheat flour? Well, guess what? It worked! Although apparently, a million other people already knew this and I am extremely late to the almond pulp party!
I decided to take one of my banana bread recipes and tweak it a bit with almond pulp that was leftover from 1 cup of whole, soaked raw almonds. Remember, almonds have a lot more fat than grain flours, so we can cut back on some of the added fat. But almonds have no gluten, so I was reluctant to make an all-almond pulp bread this first time. I know this will be neither Paleo nor gluten-free (although I am confident you can swap the gluten flour for a good GF all purpose mix + a little xanthan gum), but I think we can fix that with a few more tweaks. Using half whole wheat flour and half almond pulp, this bread came out to be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! Moist but hearty, not crumbly, and not too sweet. It’s perfect banana bread, in my book. My life changed instantly!! Let’s all imagine the possibilities of subbing some almond pulp for flour in different recipes! Is this exciting or what??
Most of the recipes on my site have been made in my cooking classes and at home about 20 times, but this one I just did once so I haven’t tested all the permutations, e.g. all almond pulp, no bananas, butter for coconut oil, and so on. But you can bet I will! I am planning on making my Millet Blondies today with almond pulp. Check my Instagram for updates! And please share your experiences with subbing in almond pulp in any recipes — I’ll try anything!
One last favor — I love Saveur Magazine and they’re conducting their annual food blog awards right now. If you like my blog, would you kindly take 15 seconds out of your busy day and nominate me for a Saveur Food Blog Award? I think the category of Best Special Interest Blog (healthy cooking) would be great. Thank you so much! Here’s the link (and I promise it takes 15 seconds!) http://www.saveur.com/article/contests/blog-awards-2015-nominate
I’m taking a quick break from Friday Favorites so that I can focus on sharing Thanksgiving recipes until the big day arrives!
Want to know my favorite moment of Thanksgiving day? When I get to relax with a cup of tea and sink my teeth into a slice or two (OMG, am I serious?) of homemade pie. It’s my reward for the cooking marathon that leads up to that point and I enjoy every bite. I make three different pies on Thanksgiving, including apple,pumpkin and pecan, all of which I absolutely love, and this pecan pie is absolutely perfection.
I taught this pecan pie in my classes last year and everyone went bonkers for it. It has been a staple on my personal Thanksgiving menu for 20 years, but I have changed the recipe a bit every few years. Admittedly, the first 12 years of pecan pie baking, I did use the dreaded, over-processed, GMO corn syrup. It’s one of the two traditional sweeteners in pecan pie. But in my defense, did I know in 1998 that brown rice syrup existed? No, I did not. Since I discovered brown rice syrup I have used it in my granola, granola bars and rice crispy treats. It’s a terrific sticky, caramel-y, minimally-processed sweetener that works really well in place of corn syrup. Itp is made by breaking down the starch in cooked rice, turning it into easily digestible sugars. The good news is that there is no fructose in rice syrup, so it shouldn’t have the same negative effects on liver function and metabolic health as regular sugar. The bad news is that rice syrup is still a concentrated sweetener with few nutrients, so I don’t consider it health food, just a higher quality sweetener. The other bummer is that arsenic has been found in rice syrups and products sweetened with them. For this reason, I would use rice syrup in moderation and not start adding it to your daily tea.
From the original recipe, I have also swapped coconut sugar for brown sugar and added a little bourbon for boozy depth. This pecan pie is still rich and sweet, but not cloyingly so, and I don’t feel ill after eating a piece on Thanksgiving. Just don’t look at the calorie count for a piece of nut pie — you’ll just pass out. I only eat pecan pie on Thanksgiving, so I don’t worry about the calories too much. Eating it for breakfast the next day, that’s a different story. And that is why I have take-out boxes for my guests. Because I am weak and cowardly in the presence of this pecan pie.
I know many of you can’t deal with making pie crust, and that is fine. There are plenty of perfectly good pre-made crusts that you can find in the freezer section of the grocery store. However, if you are interested in making the crust from scratch, yay! Come with me over to this post where I show you the step-by-step on how to do it. I will also be posting a pie crust video any day now. By the way, you can actually make your Thanksgiving pie crusts today and freeze them. Just a thought. I make pecan pie the day before Thanksgiving and leave it in the dining room until the next day. Leftovers should be store in the fridge.
Since pecan pie is rich enough, I eat it plain. But whipped cream and ice cream would not be a terrible accompaniment, believe me. I mean, if you’re going to go for it, just go big. I cannot wait for Thanksgiving!
1 Tablespoon bourbon or dark rum (I prefer bourbon)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans*
1 cup pecan halves**
Roll disk of pie dough on a lightly floured countertop, regularly checking to make sure disk is not sticking to counter. Roll into a 12-inch round. Fit pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Tuck the overhanging pastry under itself and crimp the edges or use a fork to make a decorative border. Refrigerate pie shell until ready to fill pie.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the eggs, sugar, salt, brown rice syrup, vanilla, bourbon and butter in a bowl and mix to combine. Stir in the chopped pecans.
Pour the filling into your pie plate (it will only look half full) and arrange pecan halves in decorative pattern on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until filling is just set. If you use a frozen pie crust, it will take an extra 10-15 minutes to bake.
Allow the pie to cool completely before serving.
*For a richer flavor, toast pecans in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes or until fragrant, then chop coarsely.
**Or use all chopped pecans and skip the decorative top.
Single Pie Crust
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour or white spelt flour
½ teaspoon cane sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2-4 Tablespoons ice water
Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse a couple times until blended. Add the butter to the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. Pour 2 Tablespoons of ice water on top of the flour mixture and pulse about 10 times. Avoiding the blade, carefully grab a small handful of dough and squeeze together. If the dough holds together without crumbling, it’s ready to be formed into a disc. If it’s too dry, pulse in another few teaspoons of ice water until dough holds together. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment and bring dough together to form a ball. Wrap in parchment and refrigerate at least 30 minutes at which point it will be ready to roll out. Or you can keep the dough refrigerated for 2-3 days, or in the freezer, well wrapped for 2-3 months.
Larabars were one of the first snack bars that I remember buying. There are no scary ingredients, no added sugars or colors, just dates and nuts. I liked having them for the kids in my diaper bag, as a snack for the plane when we traveled, and more recently for all-day soccer tournaments in the middle of Taco Bell-land. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I could actually make them in my own kitchen. Without a special Larabar machine! And when I finally realized how disappointingly easy these are to make, I really wanted to hit myself over the head. And I could have been making them organic to boot!
I had so much fun teaching these bars in my classes last month. Once I revealed the secret ratio of dates to nuts (1:1 !), we came up with lots of interesting combinations of ingredients and shapes. The most important ingredient is something sticky to hold it all together. Usually Larabars contain dried dates, which you might remember are one of my obsessions! But I had success making bars out of raisins and dried cherries, too. Are we having fun yet?! Then take your pick of a nut or seed — I use either almonds, cashews, pecans or sunflower seeds. You can make a Larabar with just dates and nuts if you want. Or you can add some yummy things like chocolate, cacao powder, cinnamon, candied ginger, coconut, peppermint extract, instant coffee powder and so on and so forth. Are your wheels spinning?
These are very yummy, but let’s keep it under control and limit ourselves to one for a snack and not the whole delicious batch. After all, you wouldn’t sit down and eat 14 dates just because. I also wouldn’t use these as a meal replacement because they generally have under 200 calories which ain’t enough for anyone. Larabars get bonus points with me because you can make them in approximately 5 minutes and they last for a heck of a long time in the refrigerator or freezer.
I thought it would be great to post this “recipe” now because Easter and Passover are coming up. Larabars are a great Passover snack because there’s nothing not kosher for Passover in them, unless you use peanuts. I think making them in the shape of a traditional Larabar is great, but you can also make little mini squares, or shape them into small, flat discs like a cookie, or a little round ball like a truffle. And then I went to Michael’s and bought lollipop sticks and made…Laralollipops!! How cute would these be for Easter? Dip them in chocolate if you have to! I’ve given three different combinations here, but you can really make up your own according to what you like. Or go over to the official Larabar site and copy some of their flavors. Just don’t tell them I sent you!
1 ¼ cup dried, unsweetened dates (about 14), pitted
1 ¼ cup whole raw almonds, cashews or pecans
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
¼ cup semi-sweet MINI chocolate chips or shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsulphured raisins (or dried cherries for an oatmeal cherry bar)
¾ cup rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
¾ cup raw cashews or pecans
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
The easy way to do this is to place all of the ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a food processor and process until the mixture comes together in a tight ball (about 2 ½ minutes). Everything will be really finely processed. See the lollipop images for what that looks like. Or if you want a little more texture from the nuts, process the nuts and dates separately and mix them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. See the other images for examples of that.
The chocolate chips can be added at the end and mixed in with your hands.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and transfer the ball to the plastic wrap and press down to start to flatten into a rectangle. Fold the excess plastic over the top and use your hands to shape and flatten the mixture until it is about ½” thick, about 9” across and 3” down. Or make whatever shape you want!
Refrigerate for a couple hours until firm and slice as desired. Keep wrapped in the refrigerator. Or transfer unwrapped bars to a tightly sealed container.
You can also do a Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar: 1 ¼ cups pitted dates + 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts. Sometimes I add 2 Tablespoons of Maca powder and a pinch of salt with or without a few mini chocolate chips.
Did you notice the exclamation point in the title? I need you to know how excited I am about this. !! I’ll confess right here that ice cream is probably my favorite food. That I don’t eat. Ice cream doesn’t agree with me, if I can get personal with you. But I think this is definitely for the best because it’s just not good for you. Pasteurized cow dairy + sugar + ice cold = digestive nightmare. But just because I can’t eat ice cream doesn’t mean I don’t dream about it. Yes, of course there are alternative “ice creams” made from soy or coconut. But soy milk is something I avoid (way too processed and hard to digest) and most of the coconut frozen desserts taste like coconut, which I like, but not every time mixed with every flavor. Just an FYI, you can take two cans of full-fat coconut milk, mix it with sweetener to taste plus a drop of vanilla extract and pour it into your ice cream maker and get coconut ice cream. That’s the recipe right there!
But recently I saw a cashew-based ice cream at Whole Foods and a light bulb went off. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? I use raw cashews all the time in my classes to make non-dairy substitutions for my DF friends. When you soak raw cashews and then blend them with a little water, you have the beginnings of lots of dairy-free possibilities. I even made a cheesecake with blended raw cashews that was to die for. I need to post that one day. What’s great is that raw cashews are pretty bland tasting, unlike coconut which definitely has a pronounced flavor, even when mixed with other stuff. Also, soaked, raw cashews are loaded with protein and much more digestible than pasteurized heavy cream and milk. !!
I wasn’t sure if you all would be interested in knowing how to make dairy-free ice cream since I can’t assume everyone has an ice cream maker. But after an unscientific poll on Facebook, it seemed like enough of you wanted to know. I made three different cashew-based ice creams in the last month and I thought they were all great. My kids had NO IDEA they were made from cashews. And to take it one step further (better), I sweetened two of the ice creams with dates. Dates! This is an ice cream that is cashews blended with dates. Are you freaking out right now? You should beeeeeeee!
The three flavors I made were Buttered Pecan (ok, technically not dairy-free because I used butter on the pecans, but you can use Earth Balance), Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Mint Chip. I loved them all, but let me mention that although these are more digestible and arguably more healthful than regular ice cream, I wouldn’t say they’re low-fat or low-calorie. And I’m sorry if you’re nut-free or cashew-intolerant because that’s the only way to go here. I am posting the recipes for Buttered Pecan and Mint Chip and as soon as I find the scrap paper with my notes for the chocolate version I will revise this post and let you know!
I’m just sorry that we may only have another month of warm weather and therefore not much time left for ice cream. Make the most of what’s left of summer, friends. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
Serves: makes about 1 quart, so if you only want to make a pint, cut all ingredients in half
Salted Butter Pecan:
2 cups pecans
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, or use Earth's Balance to make vegan
½ teaspoon sea salt, plus 1 teaspoon for pecans
4 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least three hours or overnight and
2 cups water
1 cup Grade A maple syrup (or agave, but I’m not a fan since it’s very
processed and high in fructose)
4 vanilla beans, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least three hours or overnight and drained
3 cups water
20 pitted dates
2 Tablespoons pure peppermint extract (you may want to start out with 1 Tablespoon and taste the mixture before adding the second tablespoon in case your mint extract is stronger than mine.)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips, or more to taste
Salted Butter Pecan:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the pecans, tossing to coat. Spread buttered pecans on baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Bake for 6-8 minutes until toasted, but not burned. Set aside to cool.
Place cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla and ½ teaspoon salt in a high-powered blender or food processor and process until very smooth.
Pour cashew mixture into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions. I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker.
Once the pecans are cooled, place them in a food processor and pulse to make small chunks (about the size of a chocolate chip, or smaller) or chop coarsely on a cutting board.
minutes before ice cream is finished, pour in the pecans.
Store in freezer in airtight container.
Place cashews, water, dates, salt and mint extract in a high-powered blender or food processor and process until very smooth.
Pour cashew mixture into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.
minutes before ice cream is finished, add the chocolate chips.
I guess this is favorites week. In my last post, I went on and on about my obsession with summer tomatoes and today I am sharing my new favorite dessert which uses my favorite fruit bar none, peaches. Smiley face. Peaches make me happy and this season has not disappointed so far. We have had the best peaches this summer and although I may not have eaten one every single day like I have tomatoes, it has been close.
I could make a meal out of a big peach. Ok, not really. But everything else I eat afterwards just pales in comparison. I really love yellow peaches, which I find have a more intense, although more acidic flavor. The white ones are delicious, of course, and slightly more sweet but just not quite as flavorful. But trust me, I’ll eat either any day. I always buy organic peaches since conventionally grown ones are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of the most highly contaminated produce. I think it’s because the pesticides are able to permeate peaches’ thin skin thereby making it difficult to remove toxins by washing. Pesticides make me nervous.
I have so many regular peach recipes, some that I’ve taught in my classes like peach pie, grilled vanilla peaches and this fabulous individual warm peach pie in a jar number I am writing about today. This month I will teach an arugula salad with farro and peaches that is my new favorite. Did you see that crazy delicious breakfast I posted on Facebook a month ago? Why aren’t we friends on Facebook? You’re missing out. I post something interesting there every single day! I digress. I used some leftovers from this recipe and put it on top of Bob’s Red Mill warm, creamy buckwheat porridge. People, I was like “shut the front door.” Best. Breakfast. Ever.
I have a dozen other peach recipes that I’m not posting here so let’s not even torture you with those. Let’s talk about these individual peach pie in a jar thingies that are the quickest, tastiest healthful dessert you can’t believe you haven’t ever made until now. I was inspired by a recipe I saw over at Roost, which is one of the prettiest blogs that mine will never look like. Sigh. Caitlin used apples, which I tried and thought turned out delish, but this peach version is crazy delish.
Too many of you have expressed intimidation about making a pie from scratch and I get it. Although for me, sometimes I just don’t have the time to prepare and bake a pie, especially if I’m entertaining and I am making a bunch of other things. Or maybe I have a craving for peach pie and I don’t want to tempt myself with an entire pie in the kitchen. I am weak, after all.
This is your answer. You make these amazing buttered, salted pecans which you then crumble up and put on the bottom of a cute glass jar, preferably with a wide opening at the top. Then you sauté some chopped peaches with a little honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and the tiniest amount of almond extract possible because like I’ve said before, almond extract makes peach and apricot desserts more peachy and apricot-y. But it has to be the teeniest amount otherwise, whoa. And then just when the peaches are warm, you spoon them on top of the pecans. I am totally serious. But see how not-at-all-bad-for-you this is?? See why I can eat this in the morning and at night? See why I was giving out small portions at my classes so there would be more for me? Weak, I tell you.
Serves: 6-7, depending on the size of your glasses or jars. I've used half-pint and pint jars. You don't have to use jars or glasses, but it looks so pretty that way.
Butter Pecan Crust:
3 cups raw pecans
1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter or unrefined coconut oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt (this is not a misprint)
Peach Pie Filling:
8 cups chopped peaches (peeled or unpeeled), about 12 small-medium peaches
2 Tablespoons butter, ghee or unrefined coconut oil
2 Tablespoons honey (just eyeball it since it’s such a pain to measure)
⅛ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
¼ cup almond flour (if necessary to thicken juices)
Have ready 6 clean ½ pint or pint jars.
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a small (1-2 quart) saucepan, turn off the heat and add the pecans. Toss to coat.
Pour the buttered pecans onto the sheet pan and sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Watch closely so they don’t burn! Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Place the cooled pecans into a food processor and pulse a couple times to form a coarse crumbly mixture. Place a couple tablespoons of “crust” into the bottom of each jar and set aside.
To make the filling, in a large bowl, toss the peaches with the honey, extract, and spices. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peach mixture to the skillet and toss gently to heat through, 2-4 minutes.
Turn off the heat and if the mixture is very liquidy, add the almond flour to the peaches and stir to combine.
Place several spoonfuls of the peach pie mixture on top of the pecan crust and top with crème fraiche, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or whipped coconut cream. Also delicious for breakfast on warm porridge or with yogurt. Serve immediately!
If you are nut-free, you can still make the peaches alone or serve them over crumbled cookies, like graham crackers or gingersnaps.
There are a few recipes I make on Thanksgiving that I call “one-hit wonders.” That is to say I don’t make them on any of the other 364 days in the year. I’m no fan of stuffing, for example, so I keep the masses happy by making it on the holiday and then we forget about it until next year. My Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Gratin was in the same category for no other reason than it just seemed a little decadent to serve on a day that isn’t considered the biggest meal of the year.
Just for fun, I recently tried a new sweet potato recipe which my kids absolutely flipped for. Not only has this Sweet Potato Casserole bumped the former gratin out of the coveted spot, but my kids have begged me to make it multiple times since then. My girls have even eaten it for breakfast and as an after-school snack. I am crazy for sweet potatoes any which way and I am perfectly content with a nice big juicy one plain and simple. So when recipes start adding cups of brown sugar with marshmallows or oatmeal cookie dough on top, I can’t take them seriously. We’re going to try and keep things classy over here, ok?
But there was something intriguing about this recipe from Food & Wine that I had to try. Despite the pureed sweet potato base mixed with eggs, milk, butter and an obscene amount of sugar, I saw potential. The topping is what really had me since I just love a contrast in textures. I could already taste the silky puree with the light and crispy cinnamon-nutmeg flakes and nuts. Even after I cleaned up this recipe by cutting the sugar by almost two-thirds, the casserole was still absolutely divine and a perfect complement to your Thanksgiving buffet. It’s also super easy to make if you have a food processor and can be done in advance (Thanksgiving magic words!) By the way, I have also made this recipe dairy-free with success by using coconut oil instead of butter and unsweetened hemp milk instead of regular. Since it’s already gluten-free, everyone’s happy!
What? Did you just call me “trashy” behind my back for using cereal in a Thanksgiving recipe? Guilty. Maybe I deserve it. You know what I say? Worth it!
Serves: 8-10 (on a normal day, but probably serves more like 14 on Thanksgiving if you have a lot of other side dishes)
5 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, such as garnet or jewel, scrubbed (these are often labeled "yams" at the market)
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter or ¾ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted, divided
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt + a pinch
1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg, divided
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 cup whole milk or plain, unsweetened hemp milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup pecan halves or pieces, about 4 ounces
1 cup cornflakes, crushed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup maple sugar or brown sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender, about an hour, but could be more depending on size. Or you can also boil peeled, cubed sweet potatoes in water for 15 minutes or until tender and drain, but I think roasting the sweet potatoes makes then sweeter.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skin and place potatoes in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Do this in batches if necessary.
Transfer the puree to a large bowl. Add half the butter (6 Tbs.), salt, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, maple syrup, and milk. Stir to combine and then stir in the eggs. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Recipe can be made up to this point one day in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes.
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Transfer the pecans to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a bowl, toss the pecans with the cornflakes, cinnamon and remaining 6 tablespoons of melted butter, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, maple or brown sugar and a pinch of salt.
Remove foil from casserole. Distribute small clumps of topping all over sweet potatoes. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes longer, until topping is golden and sizzling. Let casserole stand for 20 minutes before serving. ( I have also baked it covered for 30 minutes, uncovered for 30 and it still turned out great!)
You can bake this up to 4 hours in advance and serve it warm or at room temperature.